King Farewell (This Week’s Movies)


Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola: The Art of Self-Defense (Bleecker Street)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

The Lion King. “When Scar’s dastardly plottings turn dark and scary, the image lacks the romantic spookiness of animation. Here, things just look bleak.”

The Art of Self-Defense. “The sensei is a gem of controlled acting: Nivola finds all the humor, but he gives the character a weird breeziness, with the hint of anger beneath the surface, all while conveying the guy’s complete and utter insanity.”

The Farewell. “The handkerchiefs will be out, yet Wang knows how to keep the tears honestly earned.”

And a Seasoned Ticket blogpost for Scarecrow Video (not yet posted)


Movie Diary 7/16/2019

The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Stearns, 2019). Dark comedy served up nice and chilled, with too many good touches to spoil. Jesse Eisenberg does his thing – but even more so – as a young dullard whose mugging leads him to a karate studio. And Alessandro Nivola puts it all together as the guru of the martial-arts place, a freakishly placid sensei with his own peculiar system. This is a smart movie. (full review 7/19)

Movie Diary 7/14/2019

Crawl (Alexandre Aja, 2019). Not much to admire, although Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper commit to the material, sometimes absurdly. Can only imagine that sympathetic critics are spotting a big fat Metaphor and running with it (the father and daughter’s broken home is literally filled with gators and hurricane gunk – the stuff of family trauma made literal, see). There is a disconcerting scene in a bathroom filling with stormwater. Reviewed here.

Columbus (Kogonada, 2017). Missed this the first time around. Good film, smart, thoughtful, possibly a little too all-in-line; there’s a preciousness that licks around the corners. For all the handsome formal compositions (mostly drawn against the modernist architecture of Columbus, Indiana), there’s an impressive precision about the dialogue, too, and of people aware of what their talk sounds like (“Your mother? Has she done meth?”). Interesting to see a portrayal of two strangers who like each other, yet say things that draw blood, a rare kind of bracing honesty.

Stucrawl (This Week’s Movies)


Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista: Stuber (Twentieth Century Fox)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Stuber. “You are free — and you are probably exhibiting good sense — to reject this implausible concept. However, if you roll with it just a little, there’s an appealingly goofball comedy lurking within the contrived storyline.”

Crawl. “Missing that extra dash of style that can boost a monster movie onto the next level.”

For my Seasoned Ticket entry at the Scarecrow Video blog, I revive two vintage pieces on Lake Placid and Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid. (Because of Crawl, see.) Let them fight, here.

Movie Diary 7/10/2019

The Lion King (Jon Favreau, 2019). The issue of royal succession is aired in this lifelike animated film. (full review 7/18)

Strangers May Kiss (George Fitzmaurice, 1931). Norma Shearer letting it roll as a scandalously wanton lady who travels to Mexico with globe-trotting writer Neil Hamilton (the future Commissioner Gordon in Batman). Shearer does a lot of gay chuckling, Hamilton is a walking mustache, and Robert Montgomery passes through to periodically remind Shearer that he will marry her when she stops having sex all over the place. He is perpetually drunk, but chipper. Quite a bit of scolding here about what happens if a woman decides to have sex all over the place.

Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994). I seem to watch this about every ten years or so, possibly as penance for not really getting it the first time around. It’s definitely of its time, in a good way.

Movie Diary 7/8/2019

Blonde Crazy (Roy Del Ruth, 1931). A bellhop (James Cagney) leads a co-worker (Joan Blondell) into the grifting life. Cagney is all over the place in this one, full of funny voices and wacky physical business; he’s almost never at rest. The story ends up in some strange places but the Pre-Code naughtiness is on ample display, with the hero’s jerkiness being redeemed almost entirely through the fact of Cagney playing him. Ray Milland (underfed and recognizable mostly through his voice) and Louis Calhern are in there too.

Movie Diary 7/7/2019

Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1990). The film holds up well after almost 30 years, and reveals itself to be a very prescient document. I write more about it here.

Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994). A film I like a lot. I’m not sure I had thought about how much its busy style might be “directed” by the girls themselves, but it played that way this time. Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet rule the movie in an uncanny way.